ConAgra Launches Lunchtime Comedy Series

NEW YORK ConAgra, in a partnership with MSN, on Wednesday will launch an online sketch comedy series, The Working Lunch. The client hopes to create buzz for its newly launched Healthy Choice Fresh Mixers line, which will be prominently featured in the series.

The Working Lunch, via interactive agency Bridge Worldwide, Cincinnati, features actors from The Second City improv troupe, and picks up where TV spots for Fresh Mixers left off. Through Nov. 25, ConAgra will air live, streaming videos between noon and 4 p.m. on the Fresh Mixers microsite. The episodes take place in an office meeting-type setting, where viewers can vote on the agenda or content they’d like to see. Viewers can also access the sketch comedy series via the MSN home page.

“Lunchtime in the American workplace has become the new untapped prime time for reaching this audience,” Dave Maly, executive creative director at Bridge Worldwide, said of the episodes’ brief formats. Each “meeting” lasts 13 minutes, with a three-minute break in between, for a total of four episodes per hour.

ConAgra, which spent $3 million advertising its Healthy Choice line to date, is supplementing the effort with TV ads, via the Nitro Group, New York. The ads (already airing) depict office workers eating Fresh Mixers shelf-stable pasta in humorous situations. One ad, “Tech Support,” opens with a company exec asking a Web technician how to properly microwave Fresh Mixers. “You need me to talk you through add water, microwave, strain and stir?” the tech asks incredulously. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. What is that? Japanese?” the exec asks. Tagline: “Made fresh from your desk. Cook it. Strain it. Mix it. Love it.”

Earlier this month, ConAgra also tapped former model Ivanka Trump to spearhead a PR effort that generated $1.2 million in ad dollars. The company also kicked off two large sampling efforts reaching more than 9,000 office workers in Chicago and New York. Another round of sampling campaigns is planned in January, as well as increased in-store support.

ConAgra vp of marketing Mike Locascio said the campaign’s concept came from a recent Omnibus survey of 2,181 U.S. adults, which showed that 60 percent of workers ate lunch at their desks. The respondents also expressed interest in eating healthier meals. A separate Nielsen study found that consumers 25-54 spend 90 percent of their total Web time during working lunch hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“What we’ve really tried to do here is talk to [consumers] when they’re most receptive to the message,” Locascio said. “They’re really craving for entertainment during the few minutes break they get every day.”

While the concept is not new, ConAgra joins other marketers experimenting with viral and live feeds, said Darren Paul, managing director at Night Agency, which specializes in interactive campaigns. Diesel ran a live Webcam and chat campaign in 2007, featuring two female “hackers,” though Paul said ConAgra seems to have taken a more extensive approach.